04th Aug2011

Embrace the Suck

by A.J.

The following is by a very well known Ranger/ Green Beret who asked to be kept anonymous but ,who I can assure you if you have spent more than 5 minutes in the industry you have work by, with or through this guy; he is a huge icon in the community. The second nutrition section is also by an expert in the field who must be kept anonymous also these two guys are like the Stig in Top Gear. Below is an example of when a Tactical Athlete is faced with extremes. These extremes take a toll on the body and mind and will eventually lower output and performance. As a tactical athlete these conditions give birth to what is called the catabolic state. In this Catabolic state the Banshee will be sucking the life right out of your bones. It is essential to be able to recognize and overcome the effects of this catabolic state and stay at optimal performance levels.

When I went to Ranger School in January of 1987, it was considered the most difficult 58 days you will endure in your life. That may be a little overblown and braggadocios but not far off and I do agree that it is one of the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging experiences a person will endure, you just learn to “embrace the suck”. I was 22 years old and had been an athlete all my life from 6 yrs old on. I played football, wrestled, track, weightlifted and baseball. I was 5’ 10” 212lbs, could run a sub 12 min 2 miles, crank out 100 pushups and situps without stop, do 20 pull-ups and bench press 400lbs when I started Ranger School. However, operating for such a prolonged period on time on 1-1 ½ meals a day, about 2-3 hr sleep and patrolling over long distances and varying terrain with 60-120lb on you back and the mentally stress of assuming graded leadership positions and wanting to get a “GO”, can take a toll on the most physically fit bodies and minds. When I graduated as the Honor Graduate of Ranger School 61 days later after three days of fattening us back up and recovery, I weighted 174 lbs, I had lost 38lbs of fat and muscle, since I was already lean, it was a lot of muscle. Anyone who has attend Ranger School will tell you that, they walk and patrolled half asleep, hallucinated non -stop and was so hungry all the time they ate grass and whatever else they could find and if someone opened up a package of peanut butter, I could smell it a mile away. Your body and mind is so beaten down from lack of nutrition, sleep and proper recovery that it just starts to shut down. We would be on patrol on a moonlit night in a column and you would watch people take a hard right and just walk off the trail, you would run up to them and get them back on track so there would not be a break in contact and they would be asleep and still walking and you would wake them up to get them back into line, I experienced it myself several time. I also hallucinated non-stop in the final two weeks in Florida. We would be in a defense position and trying to stay awake and I would think I was back in my home drinking a beer and eating a sandwich or talking to my wife and people would say they saw you physically going through the motions of drinking, eating and engaging someone in a conversation. Ranger School is the ultimate experiment is portraying what lack of nutrition, sleep and overtraining will do to a body.


What we have here is a great example of CATABOLISM. Catabolism is not your friend; in fact this is one of the biggest enemies a tactical athlete has… A catabolic state is a condition that is mainly caused by excessive training coupled with a lack of adequate nutrition, especially protein. It results in numerous undesirable side effects in the body, such as extreme fatigue, joint and muscle pain, and sleeplessness.
What is the Catabolic State?
A catabolic state is closely related to the catabolic hormone called cortisol. The more intense the workout, the more cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands to make up for the loss of muscle tissue. All those hours of working out combined with training causes a unique reaction in the body. You may be building up strength and endurance but, all that lost energy is compensated by cortisol. This is the reason why protein and carbohydrate intake play a significant role in building muscle. Overtraining will wreck you! Some of its effects can lead to extreme weakening of your body and immune system, thereby, causing influenza, the common cold and other illnesses. Performance and accuracy levels start to drop and your effectiveness in accomplishing your goals safely and timely are compromised. This sucks to start with but outside influences such as unfamiliarity, hostile threats, and weather that’s Hotter than hell’s basement only intensifies the effects of catabolism.

How do you avoid Catabolic State?

1. Proper Nutrition and Nutrient Timing:

• Protein is the basic building block of muscle. During catabolism your muscle is going through the meat grinder and can never fully repair. Protein in food or supplement form will dramatically make a difference in your body’s repair. A protein drink can be beneficial after a round of rigorous training. Intake of carbohydrates and proteins about one or two hours before and after a workout will work wonders for your body, and keep you from feeling lethargic. Nowadays, there are a number of protein drinks that have been proven to be effective in helping people avoid a catabolic state. What’s important in picking one out is the type of protein for the job at hand. I would personally recommend a fast protein for the quick absorption of amino acids into the blood stream to start the repair process. Also, a slow release protein will release peptides into the blood stream over a long period of time, to maintain protein levels over throughout the day.

2. Avoid dehydration:
• Drink before feeling thirsty. This is especially important with dry and hot environments.
• Drink enough fluid to have pale yellow urine
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which act as diuretics … (we realize this is not an option sometimes so be aware and compensate your consumption of these products with adequate water)
• Drink two to three cups of fluid two hours before exercise or heavy outside work in hot temperatures (ok beating a dead horse here…drink water all the time)
• Drink one to two cups of fluid every fifteen minutes during exercise or heavy outside work in hot temperatures (…and the beating continues)
• If possible avoid exercising and training during the hottest times of the day to avoid extra strain on the body.
• MOST IMPORTANT: Use your head. Don’t be stupid, and utilize the resources that are available to you. What we are giving you is an ideal situation. That is definitely NOT the realm we find ourselves in sometimes (I.E. Joe). So when you can, do what you can, with what you got, to take care of the most important thing … YOU!

3. Supplementation Considerations:
• Phosphatidylserine: has been demonstrated to speed up recovery, prevent muscle soreness, improve well-being, and might possess ergogenic properties in athletes involved in cycling, weight training and endurance running. Soy-PS, in a dose dependent manner (400 mg), has been reported to be an effective supplement for combating exercise-induced stress by blunting the exercise-induced increase in cortisol levels. PS supplementation promotes a desirable hormonal balance for tactical athletes and might reduce the effect of the physiological deterioration that accompanies overtraining and/or overstretching. In recent studies, PS has been shown to enhance mood in a cohort of young people during mental stress and to improve accuracy during Sports activities by increasing the stress resistance.
• ANTIOXIDANTS : There are countless reactions and processes that the body is doing and responding to as a result of intense physical training. The result of some of these reactions can be the formation of free radicals (destructive oxygen atoms). Exercise induced oxidative stress can be slowed and detoured supplementation that includes antioxidants such as vitamin C and E. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant and seems to blunt the release of cortisol during high intensity or prolonged training. Vitamin E acts similarly to vitamin C as a strong antioxidant. Consuming these antioxidants can reduce post-workout muscle tissue damage, speed recovery, and boost immune function.
• Additional BCAAs: (leucine, isoleucine, valine) are quickly absorbed into circulation and immediately available to be used rebuild muscle proteins. Leucine itself has been shown to have a greater stimulatory effect on protein synthesis than any other amino acid. Adding BCAAs can further increase the rate of skeletal muscle protein synthesis post-training.


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